SUNY Systemness Conference Attracts National Leaders in Education, Business

November 9, 2012

New York City – State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher this week hosted SUNY’s second annual Critical Issues in Higher Education Conference in New York City. The conference brought together more than 400 education, business, and industry officials from across the globe to examine and debate the value of systemness as a means to drive future successes in education, economic development, and quality of life worldwide.

“University systems embody the potential of their home state to rebuild its own economy, to improve the delivery of public education from cradle to career, and to populate a workforce that is relevant in the 21st century,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “These are daunting tasks that no one group dare tackle on their own. Rather, it takes the full force of a coordinated collaborative university system to rise to these occasions – a system in which all involved are committed to the vision and willing to work together to see that it is achieved.”

Jane Wellman, executive director of the National Association of System Heads (NASH), said, “This is a really important topic. The issue of systems, the way they are designed and function, is under thought. SUNY is a leader in this discussion. They are bringing together resources in and outside of the state to address such an important topic.”

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), said, “In the increasingly complex world of higher education, it is ever more important to think and act systemically. When they are in place, and effectively led, state systems play a critical role in advancing the future of postsecondary education.”

Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), said, “America’s universities are facing serious challenges. We must expand economic and social opportunity for our students, contain costs, and drive innovation and research. University systems are an integral part in helping states and institutions achieve these goals. Through this conference, and other major initiatives, the SUNY system is taking a national lead in developing solutions and tactics for the future.”

Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California, said, “Public university systems play a critical role in this country—not only because they educate so many students, but also because the fulfillment of their public service missions serves so many Americans through medical care, research, and cooperative extension.”

Jason E. Lane, director of education studies and senior fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, said, “This conference – and the book series on harnessing systemness – serve as excellent examples of how SUNY is taking a leadership role in fostering discussions about the critical issues affecting higher education today and tomorrow.” 

A transcript of Chancellor Zimpher’s conference remarks, which outline the history of systemness and its value for higher education in the 21st century, is available online.

Chancellor Zimpher first introduced the concept of systemness at SUNY in her 2012 State of the University Address in January. Since then, SUNY has leveraged its systemness to:

  • Reinvest more than $6 million to academic instruction and student services through the elimination of duplicative administrative services and collaboration among campuses for business, finance, and procurement operations. Increased opportunities for campuses to share best practices as part of its shared services initiative has also led to enhanced program offerings, academic advances, and the hiring of more full-time faculty in every region of New York.
  • Drastically enhance student mobility, making New York the only state where any AA or AS degree recipient can transfer as a true junior, if they take the guaranteed transfer courses in general education and their major. SUNY is also working to put in place a systemwide electronic database to help advisers counsel students on degree and transfer options within SUNY, and installing state-of-the-art software at all campuses that will enable “reverse-transfer” within the system.
  • Start to develop plans to strategically manage enrollment throughout the system, taking into account the types of degrees and programs campuses offer as well as the jobs and training needed locally, which will allow SUNY to provide more support for programs that graduate students in “high need” careers in a given region.
  • Establish partnerships in communities statewide to help seal the leaks in the education pipeline by collaboratively approaching education from cradle to career. SUNY is an important partner in cradle-to-career networks that have formed throughout New York, in Albany, Clinton County, Harlem, Rochester, and Queens. In addition, many other neighborhoods in the State have expressed interest in pursuing this major education reform initiative.

“The full potential of systemness will be best realized once schools, colleges, businesses, parents, elected officials, and civic organizations in every region agree to educate more children, educate them better, and educate them together,” said Chancellor Zimpher.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2018, more than 424,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2017-18 academic year. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Its students and faculty make significant contributions to research and discovery, contributing to a $1.6 billion research portfolio. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit

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